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Sporting KC beats Sounders for U.S. Open Cup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning threw his water bottle in disgust.

After a grueling 120-minute match that ended with penalty kicks to decide the winner, history bowed out here Wednesday as the Sounders lost their bid for an unprecedented fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup title.

Sporting KC, which played better for most of the night and was allowed to be more physical than the Sounders without penalties, won 3-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie couldn’t be broken in 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time.

And it ended with controversy, as Gspurning thought he had denied a kick from the mark by Sporting KC midfielder Paulo Nagamura, but referees called for a retake. Nagamura converted the do-over, and the continuation of the Sounders’ historic run was up to forward Eddie Johnson.

Johnson missed high, and that was it.

It was a painful conclusion to a tense championship match.

After a scoreless first 83 minutes defined by physical and helter-skelter play, the closing minutes of regulation provided incredible drama. First, Sounders defender Zach Scott was whistled for a handball in the penalty area, which gave Sporting KC a penalty kick. Sporting KC forward Kei Kamara laced the kick inside the right post for a 1-0 lead in the 84th minute.

It seemed the Sounders were less than seven minutes from their first defeat in four U.S. Open Cup tournaments. And that’s when Scott made up for the handball.

In the 86th minute, before the frustration of the penalty kick and the fear of defeat could set in, Scott headed in a free kick from Mauro Rosales to tie the score at 1-all.

Kickoff was delayed for 41 minutes because of a classic Midwest storm that included heavy rain, thunder, lightning and even some light hail.

The Sounders had two decent opportunities to score in the first 45 minutes. Johnson got his head on a Rosales corner kick in the 30th minute, but Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen knocked it away. Five minutes later, Johnson broke away on an electric run, but his shot on goal went outside the far post.

Though the second half was better played, the Sounders could never grab a hold and maintain momentum. The result was their first loss in four years of U.S. Open Cup play.

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